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Tony Stewart: No final straw led to making 2016 his last year in NASCAR

Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — There was no final straw, no outside influence, no personal trauma that led Tony Stewart to set an expiration date on his NASCAR career.

Instead, the three-time NASCAR champion simply decided enough was enough.

"I think deep down you know when it's time to do something to make a change," Stewart said Wednesday in announcing he will retire from Sprint Cup racing after the 2016 season to wrap up a storied 18-year career in NASCAR's top tier.

If there was any doubt Stewart was at peace with his decision, he proved otherwise with a wide smile and his usual self-deprecating humor during a news conference that lasted nearly an hour at Stewart-Haas Racing.

He called the decision "100 percent" his choice, said the only pressure he received was from those trying to talk him out of it, and dismissed the idea that his personal struggles the past three years factored into his choice.

Stewart also tried to ward off any sort of retirement tour in 2016 like the one going on for four-time series champ Jeff Gordon.

"Let's establish this right now: I will not be coming to the media center every week to talk about it," he said. "You can save your gifts. I've got enough rocking chairs at home. I'm not really that kind of guy."

Stewart, who loves dirt track racing, isn't getting out of the car for good. He said he will race in some capacity after 2016, and with a soft smile answered, "Maybe. Probably," when asked if he'll get back into a sprint car. Stewart has not raced a sprint car since August 2014, when his car struck and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt track in New York.

His planned departure is not a surprise. Stewart will be 45 next season, he hasn't won a race in more than two years and has been privately working on finding a successor for the No. 14 Chevrolet all year. Clint Bowyer will replace Stewart in 2017.

Stewart has 48 Cup victories, a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Tony Stewart: No final straw led to making 2016 his last year in NASCAR 09/30/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 9:23pm]
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